The amazing phenomenon of electrical bacteria


18/07/2011

E. coli E. coli - are electric creatures. The bacteria that inhabit the human gut, can cause electrical flashes of light, and now scientists have been able to visualize the process of how cells are flashing like a light bulb.

It should be noted that had previously been known that a large number of these cells has a tendency to maintain negative charges in their membranes, but researchers were unable to visualize the light proof abilities cells.

Now, by modifying the light-sensitive protein found in marine microorganisms and its introduction into the intestinal E. coli coli, the researchers were able for the first time to see how some of the cells change their electrical state.

Like other living beings intestinal E. coli coli capable of changing its electrical potential, or voltage, moving ions such as sodium and potassium, in their cell membranes (outer covering of cells). A similar process allows our nerves to send signals to the inside of the body in the form of electrical flashes.

The difference between the electric charge in the cell membranes and the external environment plays an important role in the ability of cells to produce molecules accumulate energy by controlling the movement of their tail or flagella, and moving other molecules through the cell membrane according to the data analysis researchers Adam Cohen (Adam Cohen), Professor Department of Chemistry and Physics at Harvard University.

Initially, the researchers were looking for a way to visualize the electrical changes in the cells of mammals. They mutated photosensitive protein, and thus, it gives off light according to a voltage change occurring as outside the membrane and inside the membrane.

"Then one of the researchers, considering the E. coli under the microscope, could not believe his eyes: the E. coli flickered. This was something we did not expect," - said Professor Cohen.

In fact, the video they shot, showed individual cells, flashing in from 1 to 40 seconds before they die out again. Phase of the darkness that comes once in a minute, was associated with the large amount of negative charge of energy in cells, as noted by Cohen.

A preliminary study explains blinking the fact that cell, presumably, draws a potentially polluting substances. This drawing process is a common mechanism of resistance to antibiotics, as some bacterial cells absorb them for destruction. Thus, this method could provide a new way to study the process of resistance to harmful bacteria to antibiotics, as explained by Cohen.

The research team also found that the flashing can be different: for example, the cells are flashing rapidly when exposed to acidic conditions and slower in an environment dominated by alkaline reaction and decay at all in excess of the acidic environment or in an environment where the alkali content exceeds the norm . The research paper was published in the July issue of the journal "Science".

Original: LiveScience Translation: M. Potter


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